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Interview with Sophie Dickens

by Morag Paterson

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Morag catches up with renowned contemporary sculptor Sophie Dickens to chat about what role Blue has played in her work. 

Morag:  What is your favourite colour?

Sophie:  Prussian blue. It is wonderful to use as an oil paint. It is a very, very dark, intense, translucent colour, practically black when applied directly from the tube, but not a dirty, sooty black. When it is diluted with turps, it becomes a bright blue, and was used in the skies of Canaletto and the prints of Hokusai.

~ The Great Wave off Kanagawa ~
Katsushika Hokusai

Morag:  I read that you used to be a painter before you became a sculptor. Can you tell us a little about that?

Sophie:  I feel like my paintings are very much the paintings of a sculptor, I just didn’t know it at the time. My favourite painters…[join Network to read full content]

~ Irises ~
Vincent van Gogh

~ Olive Trees at Collioure ~
Henri Matisse

~ Marie ~
Amadeo Modigliani

Morag: How does this reflect in your own work?

Sophie: I liked to slightly tone the blue down in my under drawing, by adding a bit of warmth using alizarin crimson and a bit of yellow ochre. It works really well as a compliment to skin tones.

Cezanne used…[join Network to read full content]

~ Around Her ~
Marc Chagall

~ The Large Bathers ~
Paul Cézanne

Morag:  Can we see some examples of your painting?

Sophie:  Erm. It is interesting, because now that I am older, I can see how much I went around pilfering other artists’ work. I did a lot of portraits, which were more like coloured drawings.

This is Jack Gaster, a communist lawyer, watching the cricket…[join Network to read full content]

Painting by Sophie Dickens…[join Network to read full content]

These other two were commissioned by the son of the subject. I painted the first as a sweet old lady with a rattly cup of tea. The client said that it in no way reflected her personality, so I was sent back to try again. She was of course unhappy about this, and the rather ferocious version is the one that he kept (hanging on the inside door of his wardrobe).

Paintings by Sophie Dickens…[join Network to read full content]

Morag:  Did you only paint portraits?

Sophie:  They were a great source of income when I was a sculpture student. I also did some waitressing, but got the sack due to the terrible staining quality of the Prussian blue. Silver service waitresses are not supposed to have blue fingers for guild banquets. They also thought that I must be on drugs, which hugely offended my mother, as she couldn’t see the correlation between blue fingers and addiction. Some of my sitters…[join Network to read full content]

Paintings by Sophie Dickens…[join Network to read full content]

Morag: If you couldn’t have used blue, what colour would have stepped in and why?

Sophie: If I hadn’t had any prussian blue, I would have used another strong dark colour, like Payne’s Grey, for big contrasts.

Paintings by Sophie Dickens…[join Network to read full content]

Morag: Why aren’t more of your sculptures blue? Has blue lost its importance or is it not possible with the materials you are working with?

Sophie: I do sometimes paint or patinate sculptures blue where appropriate, although I used more blue as an art student. My first two cast resin sculptures of Birdmen were both prussian blue. I can only use it for certain pieces because there’s a significant connection between blue and death in relation to bronze figurative sculpture. Verdigris is much more widely used, as more of a green than a blue.

Sculpturess by Sophie Dickens…[join Network to read full content]

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